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Vi and I spent a couple of weeks in Cuba a few years back for The American Conservative. Nice place, good people, government a mixed bag mostly…

Varadero, Cuba. Photo: FOE Staff

Some things surpass all understanding. Why in the name of God and little catfish are we embargoing Cuba? The revolution occurred in 1959, some 55 years ago. A young man then of 20 would now be 75. The Mariel boat lift came in 1980, 35 years ago. The same man of 20 would now be 55. Even a newborn would be 35. Which is to say that all “Cubans” under thirty-five, and a very high proportion of those older, in fact are not Cubans. I imagine a conversation:

Alejandro: “I am a Cuban, and proud of it.”

Me: “Ah, I see. Born in Cuba, I suppose.”

Alejandro: “Uh, no. Miami General, actually.”

“But a Cuban citizen, certainly.”

Alejandro: “Well, no. I am a US citizen. You see….”

Me: “Assuredly you have lived extensively in Cuba, for many years at least.”

Alejandro: “Well….”

Me: “Have you ever been to Cuba? I have.”

Alejandro: “Well…no, not exactly. I…you see….”

Me: “Yes, Alex, I believe I do see. You were born in America, speak native English, carry only a US passport, and have never been to Cuba. Ah, my fellow gringo, you are no more a Cuban than I am a Scotsman. Why do you pretend? Halloween doesn’t come until October.”

These pseudo-Cuban blatherers are the worst enemy of the Cuban people, a scourge keeping them forever in the semi-penury of an impoverishing embargo. If they are indeed Cubans, they are traitors to their people and if not, foreign oppressors.

My high-school ride. Cuba is a trove of antique cars, 1959 and back. It is not clear how forcing eleven million people to drive crumbling carcanchas conduces to American prosperity and security. FOE staff photo.

As for the Republican Party, they are the most repellent mob of patriotic poseurs, drumbeating jingoes, and disturbed curiosities ever to walk this or, probably, any other planet. Some would say that they are as reprehensible as the Democrats, though that would be a stretch.

The root of the matter is that man is a near derivative of the monkey, not an improvement on him. Man cannot entertain in what he regards as a mind more than a dozen things at once, and even this number would strain him. So he puts vast complexities, sprawling lands, and multitudinous populations into a single word, and thinks about that, because it is all he can manage.

When he thinks about Cuba, he thinks about Fidel Castro, this being one of perhaps three Cubans he has ever heard of. Three, if he is among the more sophisticated of Americans. He has learned that Castro is a first-rate blackguard and a murderous tyrant, which is true. Since he cannot distinguish between Cuba and Castro, he thinks the island must be punished.

According to the CIA’s Worldbook, Cuba has 11,047,251 [corrected] inhabitants. A probing mathematical analysis, the only kind I undertake, would suggest that one of them is Castro, and 11,047,250 [corrected] are not. Thus when frothing Republicans and Cuban impostures impose an embargo, they inflict grave damage on innocent people. The one person the embargo does not hurt is Fidel Castro. Can even the midget Talleyrands of Washington believe that because of the embargo Fidel cannot get sirloin and Jack Daniels ?

The embargo is the mean-spirited vengeance on the wrong people by a Washington miffed because Fidel beat them. He was a monster, yes, but Washington has never shown a disposition to avoid the company of monsters. Thing is, he won, and he made clowns of the CIA—or more correctly was a bystander as they made fools of themselves. This Washington cannot forgive.

What earthly purpose is the strangulation of the island thought to serve? Yes, yes, I know. “Castro is a Comminiss.” Right, got it. Today, Cuba. Tomorrow Arkansas. And so a ratpack of naïve adolescent petulants in the Senate are going to save the free world, which barely includes the United States, from a tiny impoverished country impoverished because we are saving the world from it. Whatever happened to grownups?

How los Castro stay in power. Countless signs, correctly attributing the impoverishment of an educated and industrious people to Washington, give the government a politically useful enemy. Without the embargo, Cuba would explode commercially and Fidel would be a remote memory in about three weeks. FOE photo.

The amusing thing is that Washington’s desire to contain Cuba (along with Russia, China, Iran, Africa, and the Moslem world) is probably all that keeps los Castro in power. All over one sees signs saying that the economic loss caused by three days of the embargo (or whatever) would pay for a new school. Washington gets the blame, correctly, for Cuba’s misery. Why is America ruled by people who seem to have been dropped on their heads as newborns?

What manner of place is Cuba, really? It is a dictatorship, well ahead of America in totalitarianism, but we are closing fast. Yet interesting tidbits abound. The CIA puts literacy at 99.8%, which I would have thought a little high, but would the CIA lie? (The US Department of Education put American literacy at 86% ) Further, says the CIA, a girl child can expect to receive fifteen years or education, and a boy, fourteen. Life expectancy, 78 years. (US 79.5) Infant mortality, 4.7 per 1000 births (US, 6.17) Medical expenditure as a proportion of GDP is very high. Racial mixture: 64% white, 26% mestizo, 9% black—yet enjoys universal literacy, says the CIA, and no race riots that I have heard of. Cuba is eighth in the world in proportion of its people in jail—lousy. The US is second, after the Seychelles.

If Washington had any decency, or if the pseudo-Cubans of Miami did, or if Washington intelligently wanted to bring los Castro down, or if it wanted to give American businesses a nice little market, I would drop the damned embargo. The island has all the requisites for being a super-conducting tourist magnet—exoticism, but not too much; safety, very low crime, glorious beaches, climate, proximity. It also has a highly educated workforce that needs work, which might appeal to businessmen.

But no. Pseudo-Cubes vote Republican, and all those senators with the flat spots on their heads don’t like Fidel. Iam going to leave the human race.

(Republished from Fred on Everything by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Cuba 
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  1. SeanK says:

    Cubans are better folks than Mexicans. Mexicans are the bottom of the barrel in terms of Central and South American nations.
    Black Cubans and black Brazilians come in at a very close second.

    • Replies: @Eric
  2. EriK says:

    There are 11 million inhabitants not 1 million Fred.

    • Replies: @Stealth
    , @Epaminondas
  3. Stealth says:

    I’m sure he knew the correct number, but he has poor eyesight, so he probably could not see his typo.

  4. I once came to know a very nice lady in Los Angeles (she herself was born somewhere in California, perhaps L.A., perhaps not) whose upper-middle-class parents fled Havana in 1959 through a justified fear that Fidel would eviscerate them. Eventually this lady and I lost touch, rather to my regret, and she married someone else, even more to my regret.

    But what I shall always recall is the way in which her usually sunny, amusing disposition briefly vanished, and her face clouded over with disgust, when I – drawing upon the 3.2 facts about Cuban history which I remembered – referred in conversation to the Mariel boatlift. (My guess would be that she was about 10 years old at the time the boatlift occurred. I was myself still in my teens then.)

    The way she referred to the Marielitos – “bunch of gangsters” was about her mildest epithet – was very similar to the way an old-fashioned pre-1994 Afrikaner would have referred to “the blecks,” or an old-fashioned pre-1965 Jim Crow pol would have referred to “the n*grahs”. There really does seem to have been a definite class element in the antagonism between those who got out in 1959 and those who got out only 21 years later.

    Surprisingly numerous persons in the former group were obligated by Uncle Sam to settle where the government thought they were needed, which was not necessarily the part of the States where they themselves wished to live. It might or might not be relevant to the social class issue that this lady though raven-haired, was much lighter-skinned than most Latinas.

  5. Don’t call the invaders in Miami “pseudo Cubans”. They are Cubans, not Americans. They came here and took over an American city. It is a shame we ever let them in the country in the first place. They are more than welcome to tie together a few inner tubes or use their cabin cruisers and head on back to fight for their lands. Their dragging American policy into the sewer should have been ended long ago.

  6. “They are more than welcome to tie together a few inner tubes or use their cabin cruisers and head on back to fight for their lands.”

    Actually, they’ve been doing that, since The Bay of Pigs.

    Basta, or is that Batista?

  7. A good example is Cuban American Senator from New Jersey Bob Menendez. He presents himself as part of the exodus of Cubans fleeing oppression in Cuba. A little fact checking reveals that he was born in the US and that his parents immigrated five years before Batista was overthrown.

    While he screamed like a scalded cat over the Obama initiative, he is also one of the most leftist members of the Senate. He is just a typical posturing ethnic pol’.

  8. As long as we are going to be open for business with “comminiss” China, we might as well let Cuba sell us cigars and vacations. A former Mafia resort island is no threat to our way of life, but a homogenous army of a billion desperate laborers is. We’ve already started our economic death spiral; we might as well have a few good smokes on the beach before we die.

  9. Fred, you and Pat Buchanan (see his article here) seem to have fallen for the ancient propaganda line that Fidel Castro is such a blackguard: I’d suggest he is a good deal less blackguardly than most of the recent US presidents and infinitely less so than Fulgencio Batista, whom he replaced. As I mentioned under Pat’s comments, Cuba’s education system produces better results than does that of the US – with a very high literacy rate – and the healthcare there is the envy of Latin America. Latins and Africans pull together as nowhere else that I can think of. Castro himself has lead a spartan life and, sure, he has locked up a fair number of his opponents for many years – in less than ideal conditions no doubt. But the vast proportion of the people in Cuba seem quite happy – despite the fact that they are continually told how impoverished they are, everybody looks well-nourished (and I am talking about the general population). Did a blackguard do all this?

    Also how can the US keep a straight face when it accuses Castro of human rights abuses while it maintains Guantanamo on his very doorstep?

    • Replies: @Epaminondas
    , @Dutch Boy
  10. @EriK

    Fred was sipping a little too much bourbon.


    Yes, Cubans are literate. Yes, they all have access to adequate medical facilities. But there is another side to this story, Augustus. And it’s not a pretty one…

  12. @Epaminondas

    Of course the tourist enclaves are gorgeous and this is usually all most visitors see. Havana certainly has a high degree of decrepitude (so does Detroit), which is no small wonder considering the embargo, but compared to the really impoverished Third World countries, Cubans do pretty well. What made me write was hearing Fred call Fidel a blackguard – Fidel is a ‘man of parts’ with huge strength of character and one of those rare persons who has maintained his youthful idealism into later life. Given his situation – as well as the ethnic mix that he has had to work with – you bet he has been ruthless: a degree of ruthlessness is essential in any leader who must strive for the common good with the odds loaded against him. Could you imagine how Obama or Clinton would have managed, given Fidel’s situation?

    • Replies: @Ace
  13. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Why does the embargo still exist?

    Why have Democratic presidential candidates usually made noises about lifting the embargo when running for office, but back away from the concept when elected?

    One simple reason: Castro arranged Kennedy’s assassination. And that well-obfuscated fact becomes known to a president after he gets elected and has access to sensitive information. What Democrat wants to ally themselves with the people who murdered their hero?

  14. Dismayed says:

    “He … was a bystander as they made fools of themselves. This Washington cannot forgive.”

    lol, Fred. You NAILED it. One might think they would be developing a thicker skin by now given how often they screw up, but I suppose that would involve some internal acceptance of their own tedious ignorance, arrogance, and incompetence. That would never do!

  15. Eric says:

    Not according to their own internal pecking order.
    It varies depending on who you ask, but it is always a choice between Salvadorians, Dominicans, or Colombians.

  16. TomB says:

    To me at least Fred’s piece here is an example of how our times are making people mad. Schizophrenic-type mad. And how our times are driving out all measured thought, pushing pushing pushing everyone to the extremes.

    Sure of course there are good arguments against our embargo of Cuba. Just as surely however there are arguments in favor of same. (For one, in retaining an ability of our country to at least recognize the difference between regimes that are not hostile to us and those that are; for another, demonstrating that no, excluding trade with a capitalist country is not anti-imperialist wonderful and smart; and for yet avoiding the nigh-on indisputable fact that for every additional dollar you manage to create for the people of Cuba the Castro Brothers will steal 99 cents of same if not more and devote it totally to keeping themselves in power and pelf. And on and on and on.)

    But no, forget all extended thinking about things, forget all nuance, forget even that to take your position (Fred) you’ve got to go shitting on all those *Americans* of Cuban descent in favor of … *which* Cubans exactly have you seen in *Cuba* even protesting the embargo? And then go making wild promises that you know nobody will hold you to when you are certainly wrong. (E.g. “Without the embargo, Cuba would explode commercially and Fidel would be a remote memory in about three weeks.”)

    It’s not thinking anymore or even trying to; sadly, on both sides it’s just ever more … screaming.

    Anarchy indeed:

    “Turning and turning in the widening gyre.
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…”

  17. GW says:

    If the real villain here is Cubans who were able to float to S. Florida to escape communism, what do you think will happen when we open up the doors even further, and those who have lived under a socialist system their entire lives start wanting to visit their neighbors 90 miles north?

    Keep the embargo, if only for immigration reasons.

  18. TomB says:

    GW wrote:

    what do you think will happen when we open up the doors even further, and those who have lived under a socialist system their entire lives start wanting to visit their neighbors 90 miles north?

    No no; not gonna happen. Remember what the anti-embargo/normalization people—who, like Fred Reed, somehow so know the thinking and feelings of the Cuban people so intimately, and of course sooo much better than the Cuban-Americans do—have been telling us ad nauseum now: They just absolutely must *hate* us for our embargo and stuff. *Loath* us for our imperialistic ways all these years…

    You know, just like we heard for so long from the Lefty Sucks for the Soviets about how the Russian and other captive peoples thereof deep down really really cared for the Bolshies. About how it was really an “effective” democracy and etc.

    You just watch, when “gee those not-so-bad Castro boys are gone” at the very least the Cubans are going to be turning their faces away from the U.S. in disgust and in droves, and, politically, towards some Hugo Chavez type.

    Just you watch…

    And when the opposite happens, well how … impolite it will be to point out how wrong all those Sophisticates were! How … retrograde! All those oh-so-intellectually sophisticated, glittering academics and obvious moral paladins? Diametrically *wrong* and shown to have been engaged in peddling utter crap to us for ages? Essentially misrepresenting great swathes of oppressed people so as to minimize their oppression and hatred for their oppressors?

    “Oh so what?” will be the sighing zeitgeist: What’s important is what *new* oh-so-sophisticated (crap) they are peddling to us now.

  19. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    As things started to close in around him one of the main people Batista was concerned with to call was Meyer Lansky. Batista fled with suitcases filled with cash. His goons had murdered thousands during his dictatorship in order for him to remain dictator. He was as rotten as can be imagined and that’s pretty much why Castro and his handful of men could overthrow him. Perhaps if the US had used it’s resources to get rid of Batista and bring in a better class of leadership things could have worked out a little better. It’s a small island with little in the way of resources; tourism seems to be their best bet as a money-maker with light manufacturing such as textiles a possibility. Some pricey name-brand gym shoes and clothing now being sold on the American market are made in Vietnam. If we can do business with them we may as well with Cuba.

  20. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Fred you are so COOL for bashing the GOP. Before you get over your self remember that it is bipartisan spite that has kept the embargo in place through 50 years of presidents and congresses.
    Sure the embargo is a failed policy and should be abandoned. But to blame it for Cuba’s poverty is to ignore the other 200 countries that do not embargo Cuba. Where is all the Canadian, Brazilian, EU, Middle East investment in Cuba? Once the Soviets went broke Cuba was doomed economically due to Fidel Castro’s economic policy. Why are the Norks broke and starving with all the Chicom capital nearby? Same reason.
    But Fred you are so hip to bag on the GOP that I can hardly stand it.

    • Replies: @rod1963
  21. rod1963 says:

    If you think Fred is hard on the fat old ruling oligarchs of the GOP you haven’t been reading Breitbart lately.

    The GOP deserves to be ragged and spat on. After all it is the party of stupid, they are the only party to win both houses and then before the day is done cut a deal with Obama on ACA and open borders/amnesty.

    So much for listening to voters as opposed to taking bribes from the Chambers of Commerce and Wall Street banking interests. Money talks and politicians like to listen as Jesse Unruh used to say.

    In regards to Cuba. So what? We cut free trade deals with Communist thugocracies like China and Vietnam. Heck we let the Chinese steal our companies IP on a routine basis; let them flood the country with cheaply made products; let their cyberhackers attack business across the country and utilities. Heck when they start up businesses here in the U.S. they bring their own workers.

    And both parties are cool with this.

    Then to add insult to injury they are major supporters of off-shoring American industry and importing foreign workers to replace Americans.

    With friends like them, who needs enemies.

    • Replies: @anon
  22. Dave37 says:

    When I lived in Miami in 54?, before Castro anyway, the Cubans were already there, stop signs in Spanish, schools giving spanish language lessons over the intercom everyday. I don’t think they’ll be going back home to Cuba now, they’re already at home in the US. If you want to go as a tourist to Cuba, better go now before investments in hotels and gambling bring the crime rate up to our level.

  23. Cuba has free trade and travel with pretty much every country but the USA. The idea that it’s specifically the American embargo holding back the place seems to me like a convenient lie that will shown false. Trade with America will be normalized and the people will still be poor.

    Free travel and investment from Americans will probably be *bad* for Cubans. All the good coastline is going to get snapped up by millionaires and billionaires, and that won’t do the Cuban people any good.

  24. anon • Disclaimer says:

    The GOP has two years to distinguish itself from the Dems. If they fail legislatively and then nominate a rino like bush the tea party may split off. What will have to lose?

    • Replies: @Ace
  25. TheJester says:

    Many years ago I was lectured by a Cuban emigre about race and culture in Cuba. I had called her “Hispanic”. She corrected me: SHE was SPANISH; the Cuban immigrants to the United States were SPANISH, and the commies who stole their land and property were blacks and Hispanics. I did a little research and discovered that, indeed, those fleeing Castro were generally a white elite with Spanish colonial roots who rightly feared Castro crashing their party and bringing economic and social justice to the island.

    The Cuban Revolution was about race and equality. Castro used communism and the Soviet Union as a shield to protect the threatened revolution from the CIA, the Italian and Jewish mafias, and the American oil and sugar companies. Hence, as Fred Reed describes it, under Soviet protection, Castro and his revolution generally solved the issues of race and equality in Cuba. The Spanish moved to Miami where they could forever lament the loss of their plantations, palaces, and villas. And, without the Spanish, there no longer was a race problem in Cuba.

    These nuanced issues are still with us in the United States. Many of the leading “Hispanic” Republican candidates for office really have a racist and elitist colonial Spanish background. They have nothing in common with the Mexican Mestizos flooding our country. They are as much a danger to the American as they would be to the Cuban political system.

    • Replies: @Dutch Boy
  26. David says:

    Fred, I enjoy your columns. Why not do one on the mile-wide lying streak that runs through latin american culture that make things like disappearing 43 students without any witnesses possible. Latin americans are lying bits of poop. Elaborate.

    • Replies: @Tommy
  27. Tommy says:

    Fred won’t go there. His wife and step-daughter are both Mexicans. He doesn’t want to upset them.

  28. Dialetic says:

    No one is writing about or talking about the obvious connection between the USA’s efforts to punish Russia, and then the USA overnight, impulsively embracing Cuba, which would obviously lead one to wonder about Russia trying to do something with it’s historic ally Cuba, and the Obama administration trying to outmaneuver Russia with Cuba, by cutting Cuba a better, economic deal?

  29. Chuck says:

    “Racial mixture: 64% white, 26% mestizo, 9% black—yet enjoys universal literacy, says the CIA, and no race riots that I have heard of. Cuba is eighth in the world in proportion of its people in jail—lousy. The US is second, after the Seychelles.”

    Cuba is about 72% genomically White/European; that’s not much less than the U.S.

  30. “Racial mixture: 64% white, 26% mestizo, 9% black—yet enjoys universal literacy, says the CIA, and no race riots that I have heard of. Cuba is eighth in the world in proportion of its people in jail—lousy. The US is second, after the Seychelles.”

    Wow, everyone can read? That really is amazing. And no race riots? Guess when you’re ruled by a Communist dictatorship that will throw your ass in jail for saying Boo, that’s not much of an accomplishment.

    Guess what, Cuba had one of the highest rates of literacy under Batista and no race riots in 1957.

  31. Corvinus says:

    “Don’t call the invaders in Miami “pseudo Cubans”. They are Cubans, not Americans. They came here and took over an American city.”

    Demonstrably false. Those Cubans who came to America and became American citizens through the legal process, as determined by the people through their representatives in Congress, are Americans. 

Using your logic, therefore, we can call Europeans “invaders” because they came here and took over an entire nation that consisted of Native Americans.

  32. Truth says:


Using your logic, therefore, we can call Europeans “invaders” because they came here and took over an entire nation that consisted of Native Americans.

    OK, Sport, now…your’e starting…to get it….

  33. Just spent four days with my (new) US/Cuban in-laws. Had a big family Christmas in Miami. They are average, not super-successful and neither are they destitute. But quite pleasant and welcoming.

    Much talk about Cuba. I pushed the viewpoint that trading with Cuba is the quickest way to undermine the repressive Cuban government. Most quickly agreed with this idea.

    I also said that the biggest danger to the US is that the family re-unification bits of US immigration law will immediately bring a couple millions Cubans to the US. I was quite surprised that my US/Cuban hosts quite agreed, and really didn’t want it.

    Third, they are really no big friends of illegal immigrants.

    JP Straley

  34. Dutch Boy says:

    Hmm, maybe. Then again, I heard that the most common reaction among Cubans to the latest news was :”Does this mean we can eat meat?”

  35. Dutch Boy says:

    There is much in what you write; however, Castro made a major mistake in abolishing private property for Jose Average Cuban and not just for American gangsters and corporations (other gangsters). In this he was misled by his devotion to Communist ideology, in which private property in general is evil rather than just private property owned by corporate interests.

  36. Ace says:

    Ah, the perennial “must break some eggs to make an omelet” argument. Or its country cousin, “let me grind out my cigarette in your palm to show you my contempt for pain.”

    Taking the well-nourished, well-educated, blessed with world-class healthcare point for granted, the big picture is that those same people would have been vastly better off if they’d not been deprived of an opportunity to engage in pursuits other than those the communist scum graciously decided were adequate for their needs.

    Cubans are impoverished by any objective standard, even if some people (not necessarily you) think they can live happy go lucky lives on the pristine beaches. Fred’s right about the pointlessness of the embargo but it hasn’t been the cause of the lower living standards of Cubans. The entire rest of the world’s economy has been open to the Cuban government and no resource has been unavailable to them. None. If Cubans live lives near the poverty line, thank socialist politics of the Kuban Kommunist Kleptocracy.

  37. Ace says:

    Not a darn thing.

    It just beggars the imagination that Jeb could even remotely be considered a viable candidate. I say third party now and, if by some miracle the GOP becomes anything like a party willing to fight for the Constitution and free markets, I’ll reconsider but merely to articulate that in plain language is just to ridiculous. The GOP grow a spine? Ridiculous!

  38. Fred’s right to deplore the embargo and the generally crazy way we’ve allowed the Cuban exiles to control policy towards Cuba. Even so, Cuba’s poverty is due mostly to the thugs who run the place.

    Communists are probably the only people in the world more sick, twisted and just plain evil than Nazis.

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